Itō Jakuchū (1716 – 1800): Golden Pheasants in Snow, J

Itō Jakuchū (1716 – 1800): Golden Pheasants in Snow, J

2/9/2021, 10:59:48 AM
Itō Jakuchū (1716 – 1800): Golden Pheasants in Snow, J. Setchū kinkei zu, c. 1761–1765 (Hōreki 11–Meiwa 2), Color on silk, 142.2 x 79.6 cm, Part of the series "Pictures of the Colorful Realm of Living Beings" (Dōshoku sai-e), c. 1757–1766, Sannomaru Shōzōkan (The Museum of the Imperial Collections), The Imperial Household Agency, Tokyo Among the 30 paintings of the Colorful Realm series, this work conveys a particularly distinct impression through its singular palette and composition. A pair of pheasants (kinkei) rest on the curved branch of a Japanese cypress tree (hinoki). Surrounding the avian protagonists are bright green scale-leaves, laden with snow, while pink camellias enliven the bottom half of the picture. The strong contrast between the bright red underside of the male pheasant and the green cypress leaves determines the picture’s chromatic profile. The entire scene appears to be pushed up to the foreground, with glimpses of a dark and deeply recessed landscape beyond. The flamboyant S-curve of the tree branch and ambiguity of the snow-bound form below add a certain whimsy to the composition. The combination of softly falling snow, leaves splaying every which way, and glutinous accumulations of snow clinging to the tree creates a festive and strangely animistic picture. Jakuchū’s earliest surviving works suggest that he held an interest in conveying the texture of snow in its manifold states. Falling snow is depicted with a combination of large globules and a fine powdery spray of shell-white pigment spattered here and there. Of particular interest was depicting snow that had partially melted: to convey a sense of modeling, the painter carefully manipulated the layering of shell white, using sliding scales of transparency across the surfaces of snowbound motifs. This layering was echoed by a similarly complex application of shell white on the reverse side of the silk. The distant earthen form glimpsed beyond the pheasants’ tails is colored entirely with shell white applied to the back. The result, when viewed from the front, is a dim, chalky ridgeline. (nga.gov)

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